Four wineries from the Judean Hills have joined together in a new consortium to advance the region. The initiative was launched at the Norman Hotel in Tel Aviv. The group will work together with a road show of PR events and tastings, with events planned in London and Tokyo.
The Judean Hills is situated between the Mediterranean Sea and Jerusalem, where the hills begin to rise from 400 to 800 meters above sea level. The region is known for artisanal winemaking, as there are numerous small wineries in the region. The main soils are shallow Terra Rossa on a bedrock of limestone, and the climate is Mediterranean, with hot summers and cool wet winters.
The pioneers of the Judean Hills as a region for quality wines were Eli Ben Zaken of Domaine du Castel and Ronnie James of Tzora Vineyards. In the early 1990’s Castel was the first winery to put the Judean Hills (or Haut Judée) as an appellation on the label. Ronnie James, z”l, founded the Tzora Vineyards with a view to making local terroir led wines. Since then the region has become known for producing some of Israel’s finest wines, along with the Upper Galilee, Golan Heights etc.
The wineries in the consortium are:
Domaine du Castel
The four wineries have nothing in common apart from the region where they grow their wines and a shared pursuit of excellence. However they have each succeeded in placing themselves amongst the very finest Israeli wineries.
Castel is arguably Israel’s most famous winery. It has gained four stars in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book and 94 points in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Owner Eli Ben Zaken has set standards in Israel for style and quality.
Flam Winery is Israel’s most prominent wine family. They have gained four stars in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book and also 93 points in the Wine Advocate. The winemaker is Golan Flam who studied in Italy.
Sphera is a winery devoted solely to white wines. Riesling expert Stuart Pigot picked their Riesling as one of the top five in the world. The owner winemaker Doron Rav Hon studied winemaking in Burgundy.
Tzora Vineyards has gained top scores of 93 in the Wine Spectator with all their wines getting over 90 points. The winemaker and CEO is Eran Pick, MW, Israel’s first Master of Wine. The viticulturist is Dor James, son of the late Ronnie James.
The last winery to advance a region was the Golan Heights Winery with a campaign to advance the Golan. The first time Israeli wineries worked together was in the pioneering Handcrafted Wines of Israel group. Interestingly Castel, Flam & Tzora were all part of it. Since then the country’s wine administration has not been successful in encouraging wineries to work together. There is a Wines of Turkey and Wines of Lebanon, but no Wines of Israel! As such, this initiative is praiseworthy and important not only for the wineries involved, but for the Israel wine trade as a whole.